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Maintenance is Key to Livestock Waste Facilities

Maintenance is Key to Livestock Waste Facilities

by John Vavroch, Civil Engineering Technician
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Colby, Kansas

Just as we perform routine maintenance on our trucks, cars, other vehicles, and tractors, maintenance must also be performed on livestock waste facilities to keep structural components working properly.

Components of a waste storage facility generally include a waste storage pond, liquid/solid separation facility (settling basin), manure transfer pipe, timber picket dam, fresh water diversion(s), critical area seeding, and safety fence.

During construction of the waste pond, a compacted clay liner is constructed in the bottom and sides of the pond. This liner reduces seepage of the pond to acceptable levels, usually .10 to .25 inch per day or approximately 5000 gallons per acre per day. One-half foot of protective soil cover is placed on top of the liner. This cover should be inspected periodically and material added, if necessary, to ensure the integrity of the liner.

Other than the pond liner, the liquid/solid separation facility or settling basin is probably the most important component of the system. It does just what the name implies. As heavy rains wash manure and sediment from the pens, the solids run down into the settling basin where they settle out of the liquid. The timber picket dam helps hold back the solids so just the liquid enters the outlet pipe to the waste pond. This increases the longevity of the pond. It is much easier to clean the manure from the settling basin than the waste pond. The settling basin should be cleaned every year or two or after any significant rainfall event. The pipe inlet should be inspected after each rainfall event, and the timber picket dam should be cleared of any debris.

Disturbed areas are seeded back to grass after construction. Normally, a cool-season grass mix is used as it establishes quicker than native species. It is important to get grass established as soon as possible to provide erosion control for the new structures. Reseeding may be necessary in places that did not establish or have been damaged.

A safety fence is installed around the pond and sometimes the settling basin. These fences need to be maintained to keep animals and humans out of these areas.

For more information on livestock waste facilities or natural resources conservation, please contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office or conservation district office. The office is located at your local U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Service Center (listed in the telephone book under United States Government or on the internet at More information is also available on the Kansas Web site at Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

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